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Types of Exfoliation |
Types of Exfoliation

Types of Exfoliation

Exfoliation involves the removal of the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost surface. The word exfoliate comes from the Latin word ‘exfoliare’ which means to strip off leaves. Naturally our skin was designed to shed dead skin cells to make room for new cells every 25-30 days, when the skin doesn’t completely, it leads to dry flaky patches or clogged pores hence the need to exfoliate. In the ancient times, exfoliation was popular among the Egyptians.

In the middle ages wine was used as a chemical exfoliate when mixed with tartaric acid as the active ingredient. Exfoliation is a crucial part of any good skin care routine. It can help elevate your skin care regimen leaving your skin look its best.

types-of-exfoliatinghe method of mechanical exfoliation is common in spa services and at-home treatments. The dead skin cells are physically removed with an abrasive agent using either a tool or an ingredient. Some examples of mechanical exfoliation include skin brushing or a salt glow or body scrub that uses coffee grounds or sugar. Typically, this form of exfoliation can cause a lot of inflammation within the skin, but precautions can be taken to achieve results without increased side effects. On the face, scrubs should include ingredients that are gentle and round such as spherical jojoba beads. Advise your clients to stay away from harsh products like apricot scrubs that can cause microscopic tears and inflammation in the skin. A more aggressive but effective approach to mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion. This is where a small, vacuum-like tip shoots a jet of little abrasive crystals (usually aluminum or magnesium oxide) onto the skin and then vacuums them off. Crystal-free or diamond tip versions are available. Depending on the setting and pressure, you can achieve different depths of exfoliation. Microdermabrasion can help refine pores, improve the appearance of acne scars, and help even out blotchy, thickened and sun-damaged skin. It can also be harsh when overdone – or when done too often. For the best results, caution should be taken to ensure that inflammation is minimized and a good at-home regimen that rejuvenates and replenishes should be prescribed. Chemical Exfoliation One of the most common types of exfoliation is done with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy aciTypes of skin exfoliation.

There are two types of exfoliation used in skincare: chemical and mechanical.

Mechanical  skin exfoliation

Mechanical exfoliation also known as physical exfoliation involves the removal or buffing off of dead skin cells from the skin using substances with grainy textures or a physical abrasive or tool like gloves and brushes.

This process involves manual activity to help remove the dead skin cells and/or unclog pores. Pressure is to be applied with mechanically exfoliating and circular motion movements throughout the skin surface.

Mechanical exfoliation includes;

  • Clay based which have the ability to remove excess oil and dirt from the skin, examples include; bentonite clay, kaolin clay, pink clay.
  • Plant based are hydrating and nourishing examples; turmeric powder, moringa and qasil.
  • Charcoal based using activated charcoal
  • Adhesive exfoliating sheets or wipes
  • Microfibre wash cloths
  • Cleansing brushes for the face and ‘dry brushing’ brushes for the body

A combination of both plant based and clay based exfoliates offer best and effective exfoliation.

Pros of mechanical exfoliation.

  • You get immediate results after exfoliating
  • There is a lower chance of unexpected allergic reactions
  • The reusable exfoliating tools are not only economical, but also environmentally friendly
  • It is recommended for people with skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, dermatitis because you control the amount of pressure you apply to the skin.
  • It immediately absorbs the oils in the skin leaving it feeling matte and oil free
  • The process of mechanical exfoliation stimulates blood circulation in the skin hence the immediate after glow.
  • It is convenient especially because the exfoliating items are readily available
  • Can be used to exfoliate lips
  • Improves the skin texture quickly.

Cons of physical exfoliation.

  • It only works on the upper layer of the skin, then gradually goes in the skin.
  • It is very easy to over exfoliate your skin in case you apply too much pressure.
  • It is a bit messy

Turmeric powder mechanical

Chemical skin exfoliation


Chemical exfoliation means exfoliants that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, fruit enzymes, citric acid or malic acid. This type of exfoliation is usually recommended for people with acne prone skin. The common types of chemical exfoliants are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). These two works by combining with the structural lipids in the outermost layer of your skin and dissolving them so that the dead skin cells break away.

BHA is also known as salicylic acid and a more effective treatment for acne prone skin. AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acids. These are derived from either fruits, milk or sugar.

There are two major types of chemical exfoliators: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Oily, acne-prone skin often responds best to BHAs like salicylic acid.

For combination skin, AHAs like glycolic or mandelic acid can be extremely effective, as their moisture-binding properties allow them to keep skin from becoming dehydrated. For sensitive skin, lactic acid – the gentlest AHA, is a good starting point.

Pros of chemical exfoliation.

  • It works evenly on the skin.
  • The ingredients usually have second advantages
  • It is better suited for people with sensitive skin
  • There is no risk of over scrubbing.
  • Penetrates more deeply into the skin
  • Helps other products absorb better.
  • Boosts collagen production
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation and scars

Cons of chemical exfoliation.

  • It takes a long time for one to see results (maybe weeks, months)
  • It is very difficult to figure out if a product is working or not.
  • There is a higher chance of getting unexpected reactions from the chemicals
  • When overused, it can lead to chemical burns, drying of the skin, and sometimes rashes.

Benefits of exfoliation.

  • Improves the appearance of the skin.
  • Makes the skin firm
  • Leaves the skin looking brighter
  • It improves the effectiveness of skincare products
  • It prevents the clogging of pores hence fewer breakouts
  • It increases collagen production which will promote the elasticity of the skin therefore reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • It reduces the appearance of cellulites
  • It also prevents ingrown hairs.

How often do you need to exfoliate?

The process of exfoliation should be a step in one’s skincare regimen or routine, depending on your preference. For example, if you feel that your skin is dull or that it looks dull, exfoliation will definitely jump start your skin, making it look bright and more vibrant. You can exfoliate your skin in the morning to start your day as the skin has been rejuvenated the previous night, or you can opt to exfoliate your skin at night to help with the cleansing process to remove excess oils, dirt and left over make up that was lingering after you remove the makeup.

You can also incorporate exfoliation in your weekly skincare regimen to clear your skin of all the tiredness from the previous week.

If you have oily skin you can exfoliate every other day to help unclog the pores. The other skin types on the hand, it is recommended that you exfoliate once or twice a week.

What exfoliants work best for your skin type.

The right exfoliation technique depends on your skin type which will help minimize the risk of irritation and will definitely help achieve the best results.

Sensitive skin

This type of skin undergoes a lot of irritation when handled poorly. If it comes into contact with any new product that is not fit for it, there will be adverse consequences. An exfoliant for sensitive skin should not be harsh on the skin. It should be light and gentle. The exfoliates used should be of smaller granules to prevent skin tears. You may be advised to look for exfoliates that are derived from fruit enzymes.

Normal skin.

This skin type is not irritated easily unless succumbed to harsh conditions. It can get away with using any type of exfoliant without experiencing any irritation.

Dry skin.

This skin type usually experiences dry patches, flakiness and roughness. It usually feels so irritated and tight. Exfoliants infused with moisturizing and hydrating agents to help infuse moisture in the skin.

Oily skin.

This skin is usually shiny and greasy. It is always filled with sebum which clogs the pores. People with oily skin are able to use stronger chemical or mechanical exfoliates without a problem. Oily skin has large sebaceous glands making the skin thicker making it able to tolerate harsh exfoliates especially those with large granules.

Combination skin.

This type of skin is usually characterized by a combination of both oily skin and dry skin. The T-zone area is usually oily and the area around the cheeks is usually dry. It is advised that you exfoliate the different areas individually to prevent irritation.

Precautions when exfoliating.

Do not exfoliate your skin in case you have open wounds or sores or an area that has been recently waxed.

Avoid sources of heat or showering with hot water after exfoliating.

Do not scrub your face too often to reduce cases of irritation or no irritation at all. The exfoliation process needs to be done lightly and gently.

Take off your make up before you exfoliate to give your skin a proper cleanse.

How do you exfoliate?

Cleanse your skin before you exfoliate. If you are exfoliating your face make sure you don’t have any make up on or dirt, just wash your face. If you are scrubbing your body, it is advised to do it while in the bathroom while at home.

Apply the exfoliate or scrub on your skin adequately.

If you are scrubbing your body, start scrubbing from your feet and ankles using gentle circular motions while making your way up to the rest of the body. Pay attention to the drier regions of your body like the heels, knees and elbows. also pay attention to the area which appears to be cellulite prone such as the thighs.

If you are using an exfoliating glove or brush to scrub your body, make sure you wash or clean the materials afterwards to prevent bacteria from forming.

Rinse your body or face well with lukewarm water and continue with your skincare regimen.

Some of the ingredients used as exfoliants that are found at the comfort of your home.

Recipe 1. Just mix two table spoons of milk, a teaspoons coffee ground and honey. Make a paste with the ingredients and apply to a clean face and wait for 10-15 minutes then rinse off with lukewarm water.

Recipe 2. Combine 1tbsp of bentonite clay, 1 tsp. of turmeric, 2 drops of an essential oil of your choice and a carrier oil of your choice then make a thick paste. On freshly cleaned skin, apply the paste and wait for a few minutes for it to dry up then rinse off with lukewarm water.

You can decide to stick to DIY scrubs or over the counter ones, but you need to understand the needs of your skin and research on the right products and ingredients to use to exfoliate the skin to prevent the underlying issues of your skin from becoming adverse conditions.

Seek professional advice from a dermatologist who can walk you through your options and point you in the right direction.

By Eila Oketch.